I can’t say that I expected to be writing this tonight, but unfortunately, I am.
I just got the news today that my Uncle Jack, my dad’s best friend, and a dear friend of ours, has passed away. Jack was the man who said, “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, you’ll never be bored.” and also my inspiration for a series of blog posts, and for that matter, my blog.
But Jack was so much more than that.
Jack was there for me since I was a baby, then a child and forever more. Our relationship evolved over my lifetime but especially grew during my adulthood. Jack was a kind and gentle spirit.
He was my strength when I left my marriage in 2010, while living alone in North Carolina, where I had no other family.
He was a supportive note in the mail…an encouraging word.
He was also the reason that I got custody of my three boys, after four long months of being alienated and estranged from them by my ex-husband.
One day I went out to my mailbox and found an envelope from Jack. I opened the card to find a crisp one hundred-dollar bill and a note that said, “Use this money to find yourself a new husband. Love, Jack.”
Jack always made me laugh.
I couldn’t believe that he sent me one hundred dollars. I spent a lot of time contemplating the best way to use it to do Jack’s generous gift justice.
I was depressed, broke and longing for my children.
I thought about his words…there was no way that one hundred dollars was going to get me a new husband or get my kids back. (I wasn’t sure that I wanted a new husband anyway, but I knew that Jack wanted me to be happy)
After much introspection, I decided that the best thing to do with Jack’s money was to be practical. I had a court date coming up and I was in desperate need of a haircut. I had left my ex-husband with a half a trash bag of clothes and had nothing decent to wear to court the following week.
I headed to Great Clips, got my hair cut and made a stop at the mall and bought a sexy, new pair of heels.
A short shopping trip at Goodwill, finished the clothing aspect of my outfit and I was relieved that I had something decent to wear to court. Thank you Jack. I was grateful.
The day of my court hearing was finally here. I showered, dressed and arrived on time. The judge extended my current ten-day restraining order and put a new, year-long restraining order in place that included no contact of any kind, in person, by phone or by text, all of which were enforceable by law.
After returning from court, I laid on my living room couch, emotionally and physically exhausted. I missed me kids. I was losing the steam to keep up the fight but I knew that somehow I would never give up.
Thank God for my dear friend Sue who came over to console me and cook dinner to make sure that I ate.
My cell phone rang and I reluctantly answered it.
“Hello.” I said in a whisper.
“You looked so good at court today. I loved your haircut and your shoes.” I heard my ex-husband say into the phone.
“Who is it Sue asked?”
I was too shocked to reply.
I couldn’t believe that my ex-husband had broken the restraining order within hours of it being put into place.
Jack’s card and generous gesture ultimately resulted in me gaining custody of my three boys.
Who would have thought?
Not Jack, and certainly not me.
Soon afterward, I returned to Connecticut.
Jack and I made it a point to see each other and speak on the phone often.
Over the years, we shared many confidences. He was always there for me and we leaned on each other when my father died.
He encouraged my writing and shared it with the people that he cared about.
Jack called me weekly and would say, “Erin Cooper Reed, are you writing?”
Uncle Jack, I am and I’m doing it right now with a broken heart to try to cope with living without you in my life.
I know that you loved people, you loved cats, volunteered at the church, attended daily mass and opened the church doors every morning with the keys that you were entrusted with.
I know that you prayed to the Blessed Mother and took walks where you found money and sent it to people in need. (One of which was me.)
I know that you never thought that you did anything important with your life because you told me this yourself and I told you that you were wrong…
And you are.
Jack, you are an angel and I, as well as others, will miss you from the depths of our souls.
You touched my life.
You made a difference.
I’m crying, yet I know that you are with God, the Blessed Mother (Who you loved so) your parents, your son and your family.
I have reached the end of this post and the end of a box of tissues.
My heart is broken and all I can do is write…I think you’d be proud, even in my grief.
Thank you from the depth of my heart. Heaven has gained an angel. Say hi to my dad for me. and know that I miss you already.
I love you Uncle Jack.
I only wish that a got to kiss your head, hold your hand and tell you that I love you just one more time.
I hope that you know, and I hope that I continue to make you proud.
Erin Cooper Reed